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Everyone Needs a Sabbatical

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

When we were getting ready to leave the Twin Cities, a friend remarked that our upcoming journey reminded her of her exploration in her twenties. Various jobs in several different cities allowed self-reflection as well as a push onto her current path.

We, on the other hand, decided to take a break right at a time when our peers and other people in their thirties were digging in and showing a preference for stability: buying houses, having kids, accepting promotions at work, getting into knitting, and so on.

It is worth noting that our community is largely white and largely middle class. We don’t want to downplay it when we say that we know these stable realities are a privilege. It’s something we confronted constantly on our trip: our ability to leave this stability behind and our confidence we could step back into it if we wanted to. That is a conversation worth continuing, and we will, in another blog, another day.

For now, some observations regarding the need for sabbatical. It’s no coincidence that an article about millennial burnout is gaining traction on the interwebs right now. We are apparently a generation of over-worked & under-paid idealists with boundary issues.

It’s no coincidence that we are in a time of TL/DR (too long/didn’t read). A time of little cartoon character “bitmojis” that perfectly express our ennui. We text instead of leaving voicemails. We abbreviate everything. We are rushed, we are frantic, and we are trying to save time where we can. “I’m so busy” is a favorite phrase.

So for those who already feel like TL/DR about this post, here’s my main point:

we are ending this trip knowing that: 1) everyone deserves a sabbatical, and 2) once on sabbatical, it’s hard to return to the way things were.

This is why we are trying so hard to not return to the way things were.

I have searched high and low in St. Louis for a low-cost apartment that – with utilities – could cut our living expenses in half of our previous costs as homeowners. I have strategically looked in neighborhoods with bus routes, high walkability scores, and nearby fun activities (a park, a cool neighborhood restaurant, a biking path, etc) as well as necessity places such as the grocery store.

I am also working on goals related to reducing costs. These include getting better at meal planning and actually using the food I buy (sidenote: my friend Sarah has an awesome ebook about this very topic), driving less (side benefit: exercise from walking), cancelling Amazon Prime which I've found enables my careless purchases, and continued downsizing. More than downsizing, I'm trying to really think carefully about new purchases (see above: Amazon Prime). For the stuff we determine we actually “need” - which is complicated - we plan to start by seeking those items secondhand.

We want to know if we can build a life where we can do more with less. We crave a life where we can follow our passions instead of be ruled by our paychecks.

After five months of travel we believe that dramatically reducing our cost of living is our best chance of having a life that nourishes instead of depletes. This is one of the reasons communal living and the sharing economy has such appeal. Could reducing our cost of living and rethinking our relationship with possessions – ultimately going from a “mine” to an “our” mindset – improve our quality of life? We think so.

The great news is, living out of our suitcases has only reinforced that we can be very happy – ridiculously happy – with a lot less. We had two pit stops at my parent’s house on our road trip and each time our possessions – our “road trip essentials” – decreased more. We each ended the trip with a small collection of outfits and a personal backpack with journals, drawing pads, and books. If I'm honest, it was still too much.

So - for us at least - a sabbatical paved the way for some big truths and honest reflections. And because of this experience we are now of the mindset that everyone could benefit from time off. Everyone needs a sabbatical.

It’s a conundrum to know the benefit of sabbatical time and yet look at the world and see many limiting factors. Thinking about all the individuals with “side hustles,” multiple income streams, and working extremely hard simply to make ends meet. We were house poor in our former life and besides being extremely stressful it brought up a ton of shame and guilt. Our country has so much inequity, so many people struggling with the basics. I am conscious that this reflection might come off as naïve or ignorant.

Let it be known, we understand that sabbatical is a privilege. We wish it – and many other things – were a right.

A final thought on time off: though our sabbatical time is coming to a close as we seek employment and stabilize our lives in St. Louis, we also are thinking of ways to continue the sabbatical in our daily lives. Here are some of our ideas; we would love to hear your ideas or reflections on sabbatical in the comments.

"Normal" Life Sabbatical: A Brainstorm

-Continued prioritization of healing mind, body, and spirit

-Less phone time; more time dedicated to joy-producing hobbies such as reading, creating art, gardening, et cetera

-Carving out time to do nothing or even a do nothing day!

-"Spark joy" through experiences not stuff

-Learn a new skill, take a class: expand horizons

-Give self plenty of time to rest

-Write postcards...especially to all the lovely humans met on the road!

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